Building Trustworthy Leadership

April 10, 2018

Revealing questions to determine your most engaged employees.

In my previous column, we started to explore the research that has been done on the topic of employee engagement. What we learned from research done by the Gallup organization is that, in most companies, less than one-third of employees are “engaged” at work. engaged employees are excited about their work and their workplace and are enthusiastic supporters of the company mission.

So, here is the alarming statistic: If only one-third of the millions of employees that were polled by Gallup are “engaged employees,” that means the remaining two-thirds are “not engaged,” or are “actively disengaged” employees. When looked at as a whole, the research shows that about half of all employees are not engaged and the remaining 17 percent are actively disengaged.

The question that often comes up is, why do employees feel the way they do, and what is it they want or need that would cause them to move from not engaged to engaged? Many shop owners and managers have a mindset that doesn’t align with an employee’s way of thinking. Your paradigm or mind map can often act as a set of blinders that prevent you from seeing and understanding what drives employee engagement. Your personal motivators and behaviors are often the obstacles to the clarity needed to create an environment of engagement.

For the moment, set aside what you think you know (your paradigm) and let’s explore what decades of research tells us about people and what motivates them. For the vast majority of employees in our shops, money is not the primary motivator. In fact, money is often in fifth or sixth position on surveys and studies done by the likes of Gallup and Forbes. What they’ve found is that money is more of a “sub-motivator” and that people thrive and respond to more intrinsic factors than simple monetary compensation.

We will take a look at these intrinsic motivators, but first, I think you should know about the methodology of employee engagement surveys done by Gallup. Gallup uses 12 carefully crafted questions, called the Q12, to extrapolate engagement scores. Here they are:

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?  

  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?

  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

  9. Are your fellow employees committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do you have a best friend at work?

  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

When I was first presented with this list of questions, my immediate reaction was to try to tick off each box with a positive answer. I was somewhat skeptical about the value of some of the questions. This was early in my career, so I asked an outside company to perform a confidential survey of my employees. The reality of what my team members actually thought about the company was very revealing and somewhat harsh. Honestly, at that time in my career, I wasn’t able to say that my company was full of highly engaged employees, and this drove me to explore why that was and what could be done about it.  

You might find it interesting and helpful to review the Q12 questions and really ponder the reality of what your employee’s responses would be to these questions. For me, it was a humbling experience but also one that helped me improve my leadership skills. If you look closely at some of the questions, you’ll see that they directly relate to actions that only a manager or leader can perform. That leads us to the first intrinsic motivator that most employees want: trustworthy leadership.

It’s not enough to review employee assessments and think you know them. A leader needs to build meaningful and transparent relationships with his or her employees. Employees must believe that you care about them as an individual, not just as a worker. You need to know what really matters to the individual and what really motivates that singular person. The employee needs to know that they can trust you to follow through on your word and not just blow smoke about the value the company places on them. They need to know that you believe in them, and will support their ambitions and aspirations.

Next month, I dig deeper into the techniques and tools you can deploy as you develop trustworthy leadership, and I’ll continue sharing a few more intrinsic motivators that your employees need to become a highly engaged and highly productive team.

About the Author

Steve Morris

The late Steve Morris was the regional director for Classic Collision in California (formerly Pride Collision Centers). He was an Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) and ASE-certified master technician. Morris died April 22, 2022, at the age of 63 of complications following surgery.

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